Breaking Free of the Hunger Cocoon (A Feeding South Africa Post)



Do cocoons make you curious about what’s inside? What color will the butterfly be when it emerges? Where will the winds and its wings take it? Will it bring someone joy?

For children in South Africa, hunger threatens to keep them in the “cocoon” of hunger.

65% of all South African children live in poverty. Receiving food encourages these children to stay in school and obtain their education.

When children are unable to stay in school and obtain an education, it is unlikely they will emerge from the cocoon of hunger.

Nearly 20% of all children in South Africa are orphans, with approximately 1.9 Million of those children orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS.

In addition to the absence of parental support, these orphans are more likely to remain trapped in the cocoon of hunger.

Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential. The conservative estimate of the number of children in South Africa living below the poverty line is 12 million.

Although government programs assist approximately 8 million of these children, 4 million children still need help to emerge from the cocoon of hunger.

African Basket

African Basket

Although my teenagers no longer want my input or involvement in their lunch choices, I remember well the challenge of finding something nutritious, novel, and affordable for their lunches. We bloggers participating in this campaign are each contributing a recipe. Mine comes from Ellie Krieger of the Food Network. It’s colorful, tasty, and affordable (and it has a great name!).

Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad


8 ounces bow tie pasta, preferably whole grain

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1 cup shelled edamame, thawed if frozen

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)


cropped ingredients


Cook the pasta as the label directs. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking; let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cooled pasta with the corn, edamame, bell pepper and carrots. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Add the parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss again and season to taste.

plated pasta

Besides thinking about sending rainbows and butterflies in your child’s lunch (or yours, as I’ll be doing this week!), what can you and I do about the 4 million children in South Africa for whom a “colorful pasta salad” would truly be a luxury?

Lunchbox Fund Photo 3

We can help The Lunchbox Fund meet its goal of raising $5,000, which will provide 100 South African school children a daily meal for one year. (The meals are provided at school, which reinforces the likelihood that the children will go to school.) But $5,000 sounds *BIG* doesn’t it? I gave $10; if 499 more people do the same, we’ll be there! For me it was giving up the $10 I would have spent on yoga today and doing yoga at home instead. A small sacrifice in the long run.

To donate, click this link.

There’s no reason that those of us who have so much can come together to help children who need the basic gift of food and help them fly free from poverty.


 *Note: The factual information in italics was provided by The Giving Table.

But I DID Bring It Here!

The title of this post “But I DID bring it here!” is a reply I have been wanting to make to someone I dealt with earlier this week. Here’s the story:

(and note, I have intentionally not said what entity I was dealing with because I think the staff person was just a reflection of the communication system, not a bad employee)

Earlier this week, a local municipal transportation agency was doing a food collection promotion (titled “Caring in Motion”). If you donated two canned goods you would receive a free one-way bus pass; if you donated three canned goods you would receive a free round trip bus pass. Contributions went to a local agency that does a lot for hunger in our community.  Although I don’t ride our local bus, I am a big proponent of mass transit (as well as eliminating hunger) and I have partnered with this entity before.

As soon as I saw the campaign announced, I shared it on Facebook (and possibly Twitter – I don’t recall). I stopped at the store that night and purchased canned goods to take to the main transportation plaza on the appointed day (and yes I got three).

chicken breast one

When I approached the staff person behind her plexiglass shield, she had just finished dealing with a very unhappy customer who was dissatisfied with some aspect of our bus system’s routing. I approached her and asked if I could drop off my items. She was not prepared for that question. She said, “well I can’t give you a free pass” (I replied that was okay) and continued to act reticent about accepting my contribution. At some point I asked, “is it easier to go to that bus over there and hand it to the driver?” She finally opened a special little drawer in her plexiglass bunker where I could fit my items. And as I deposited my items, she said, “You didn’t bring it here.” (As in “I could get in trouble for taking these canned goods … the ones our agency encouraged you to bring and you then encouraged other people to bring … so let’s keep it between us okee dokee?”) I agreed somewhat non-verbally. As I was walking away, I was worrying about the negative experience anyone I told they could do the same thing might have. My worries were interrupted when she heartily yelled over her plexiglass-enclosed microphone: “THANK YOU!”

Why does it matter? For me, it mattered because I had put my name behind encouraging people to do this. Having dealt with volunteers in many capacities, I know how easily one small perceived slight or mishandled detail can deflate a volunteer’s altruistic motivation. More importantly, I was wishing that from a management and leadership perspective, she as an employee had been fully informed about the campaign underway and encouraged to participate and be thrilled that the public was interested in helping out. I know her job is often hard. This could have been handled so differently, so that our interaction was a positive point in her day, not something that made her feel like she was going to get in trouble.

In a post she wrote about “8 Things Collaborative Leaders Know,” Jesse Lyn Stoner said, “People want their organizations to be successful, and when given an opportunity to participate, they bring their best thinking and contribute fully.” In the case of how my contribution to “Caring in Motion” was handled, I just wish the interaction I had with the staff member had been different. Instead of “you didn’t bring it here,” I wish something else had been brought: some “caring in motion” perhaps.

Have you ever had a sense that someone you were dealing with was not fully engaged with their organization? What can managers do to increase opportunities for everyone to participate?

** Update: I ended up sharing this post with StarMetro, emphasizing that it was constructive feedback and the last thing I wanted would be for the employee to be criticized. I really appreciate the director’s gracious reply and receptiveness! One quote: “As always, I enjoy great feedback like this, since it helps identify areas that improvement may be needed.”


It’s Not About The Money (A Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em Post)

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

I am happy to share my thoughts on Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans.

I find it so fun that the concepts in this book are presented as “ABCs” of leadership. For instance, “A” is for “Ask” which reminds leaders to ask themselves, “Do you know what they really want?” The book leads us through “D” for “Dignity” (In how many ways do you show you respect them [your employees]?), “P” for “Passion” (Do you know what gets them up every morning?”) through, finally, “Z” for “Zenith” (How will you sustain your commitment to engagement?).

I could write an individual post on each letter of the alphabet and its related leadership parallel, but based on the comments to my post last week, I think it’s best to expound tonight on the idea that money isn’t the primary reason people stay at an employer.

One of the first exercises I participated in when I began the Certified Public Manager program was one that focused on ranking my personal values. Once I had done that, the group compiled all of their responses to this exercise. Although our “number ones” differed from one another, in almost all of the cases, “money” or “salary” was five, six, or lower. Most attendees were surprised at this answer.

In this book, Kaye and Jordan-Evans cover the topic of pay in the “A” for “Ask” chapter. They note that “pay” is number seven on a list of reasons people give for staying in their organizations (exciting/challenging/meaningful work is number one)*.


This is certainly true for me. You know those people who say, “going to work doesn’t feel like going to work because I love it so much”? There’s something to that. I see it in the acting community … in the people who show up, completely for free, to volunteer on a set, to be an extra, to do a favor for a producer who needs a certain line said or role played. Sure there are actors who make big money, but in many cases I dare say they would do most of what they do for free, just because it brings them joy. It’s why I get up early and connect via Twitter as “The Optimism Light.” It’s why I write blog posts for various causes I love, not because I get compensated financially but because it brings me joy to “connect the dots” between people, causes, and themes.

I’ve heard it in organizations. If only we got a 5% raise this year. If only my performance were recognized with a bonus. A person with two degrees is making more than me even though she does half the work. It’s not fair. People in private industry have so many more perks. Or, conversely: People in public service have the thrill of a cause to work for. In my opinion, although there is some truth to all of those statements, a “Love ‘Em” leader can dig a little deeper and find some other motivator that would retain the individual or at least to understand what issues are behind the person’s “if only” statements. And a manager who becomes adept at doing that is a manager who is less likely to “Lose ‘Em.”

What keeps you at an employer? If you are a supervisor, what strategies have you found to ascertain what makes employees “tick”?

It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.

-George Lorimer

*For the complete “what kept you” survey data, visit and click on the “What Kept You” link.

I received a complimentary copy of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

A Place at the Table (A Food Bloggers Against Hunger Post)

“So hungry”………raise your hand if your child (or you) has ever, in a moment of frustration because work obligations pressed too hard or service was slow or the milk in the fridge had gone sour……….said “I’m so hungry!”

For most of us, we aren’t technically that hungry. Our stomachs are grumbling, our blood sugar is plummeting, our patience is hitting bottom. But we are a few minutes, dollars, or miles away from a decent meal.

For millions of Americans participating in our nation’s food stamp program (SNAP), $3 to $4 per person per day is what they have to supplement their food budget.  In addition, the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest (some articles describing why this is the case can be found here and here.)

A few facts:

  • 16.2 million kids in America struggle with hunger. (Source: USDA Household Food Security in the United States)

  • 10.5 million kids eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not get it. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)

  • Six out of 7 eligible kids do not get free summer meals. (Source: Food Research and Action Center “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report)

We bloggers* are banding together to post recipes today as part of a recipe roundup of budget-friendly recipes. I have scoured the interwebz today, thinking of the cans of tuna and chicken (and the jars of peanut butter) that I have deposited in our baskets at Holy Comforter each week, to be distributed each Saturday by our food pantry. My basic thought process when I am at the store is usually, “protein is good so I’ll do tuna (or chicken….or peanut butter).” But if I were the recipient, what could I do with the protein to make it last as long as possible and to have the best chance that my kids would like it?

A friend who delivers food as part of a service project every week said some of the considerations she faces are: a) the fact that she drops the bag at 8 a.m. and it often has to sit until the adult gets home from work, and b) in her experience kids are pretty averse to beans. As she and I (and a few other people on Twitter) were discussing options for “budget-friendly” recipes, tuna noodle casserole and other variations on “put the meat with pasta and throw in cream-of-something-soup” seemed to be the most common suggestion. For that reason, I will suggest something completely different, that is still budget-friendly and may be novel enough to appeal to kids: Baked-Potato Eggs!

Baked-Potato Eggs From Real Simple

Baked-Potato Eggs
From Real Simple

Here’s the recipe for Baked-Potato Eggs


  • 2  baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2  precooked turkey sausages, diced
  • 4  large eggs


Heat oven to 400° F. Scrub the potatoes and pierce each with the tines of a fork. Bake until fork-tender, about 45 minutes. Carefully cut each potato in half. Scoop out the insides and stir in the butter and cheese. Fold in the sausages. Spoon the mixture back into the potato halves, creating a hollow in each center. Break 1 egg into each hollow. Arrange on a baking sheet and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until set.

Serves 4

(This recipe is from Real Simple via

Source: MorgueFile

An American School Lunch
(Source: Morguefile)

Now, where were we before we started salivating over the cheesy eggs over succulent baked potatoes? Oh yeah — we were at the fact that for some families, hunger is an ever-present fact of life. What can we do, together?

1. We can send a letter to congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation. I   sent mine earlier today; it literally took less than a minute. Here’s the link.

2. We can watch A Place at the Table, which follow three American families affected by food insecurity. Here’s the trailer:

Dates for showings of A Place at the Table can be found via this link. It is also available via iTunes and Amazon.

I am hungry to give every American a place at a plentiful table. If you are too, please join me in taking action.

no kid hungry

*Ginormous caveat here – I can’t really claim to be a “food blogger,” even though I have done the occasional post about food. More like I’m a blogger who cares, who invited herself to be a “food blogger for a day”!


How many times have we uttered “I am so famished” in our lifetimes? For 8,000 children a day, hunger leads to death. We really have no idea …

…which is why I am so proud to be a member of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. Holy Comforter’s youth group participates in the 30 Hour Famine each year. The Famine is a 30-hour fast (only juice is consumed) sponsored by World Vision. Through their participation in the Famine, the youth raise funds for World Vision with the purpose of funding projects in developing countries that will aid sustainable development of agricultural and hydrating systems. 

Each year, World Vision selects one country to focus on for the creation of games, studies, and other activities to help the youth better understand the dire food shortages in other countries. This year, World Vision chose Haiti.

The Famine is observed through a 30 Hour Famine Lock-in; the youth started at noon on Friday, February 25 and broke their fast with communion at 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 26. During the event, the youth participated in a service project that raised awareness of the needs in Tallahassee while recognizing the growing needs in other communities.

I met with the youth group briefly Wednesday night to learn a bit about their expectations (as well as the experiences of “veterans”).  Our youth shared these comments:

“We raise money to give to a country that World Vision picks out.” (Chris)

“We do a service project.” (Youth Group Member)

“Food never tasted so good as when the Famine ends.” (Matthew)

“We helped at the food closet last year.” (Christina)

“My family plans to help Honduras in addition to participating in the Famine through Living Water for Roatan.” (Bailey)

“My parents were astonished.” (Youth Group Member)

“One of our goals is to raise $360.” (Logan) (Note: if the group raises $360 they have raised enough to help feed and care for a child for a year.)

It’s not just youth who invest emotionally and physically in the Famine. Our Assistant Priest, Mother Teri, shared her nervous excitement about participating in the Famine for the first time. She said she had never gone without food for that long and admitted her apprehensions. She also said that our Priest, Father Ted, had shared that facing those anxieties is probably something that the Famine will help her do – this will be a needed step in her spiritual journey. I caught up with Mother Teri after the Famine ended, and she had this to say:

This time together helped us to bond more as a group, but the bonding was just the beginning. Because we didn’t have anything in our stomachs for 30 hours, it helped us spiritually to got more in touch with ourselves, our goals, values, and most importantly, our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world. We watched videos on the devastation in Haiti, participated in activities that helped us to understand lack of food, water, and education, and helped each other understand our desires for the future. We walked away from this experience knowing that we were different and that we would make a difference in our world from now on.

Other churches in Tallahassee participated in the Famine also, such as St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. My daughter’s friend, Genna, participated at St. Paul’s and had this to say: 
  “it was amazing, we did sooo many activities that it was impossible to think about eating. i loved it so much.”
To quote from the 30 Hour Famine materials: 
Like all things, progress begins with a first step.
History begins with a single word.
And sometimes that word is “NO.”

(special thanks to Bailey Spitzner for significant contributions to the text of this post)

Perfect Shoes (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

It is time for another Mama Kat writing prompt and the devious random number generator handed me another poem:  Write a poem about something you are thankful for. On a holiday that revolves around food, I am thankful for a coworker who reminded me to respect food, in deference to those who know “lack of.”
Perfect Shoes

I need a place to sit my coffee down in a crowded staff meeting
I start to place it on the floor under my seat
Alex scrambles to take it from my hands

I have learned not to say “oh, that’s okay, I’ll take care of it myself”
to Alex
It’s more than courtesy; it’s culture

In his culture, putting food on the floor is a sign of disrespect
of a dearth of appreciation
of taking for granted something that not everyone gets.

He says it’s a Latin American thing
I try to learn more
He tells me stories – of knowing what it’s like to have nothing

He tells me that in Colombia it would be rude to ask for more food
When there are still remnants on the plate
He doesn’t understand throwing food away

The stories go beyond food
He tells of walking four hours to school barefoot
So his shoes would be perfect for school
To demonstrate respect for the teacher

(Villa de Levya Colombia Image Credit: Andres Bermudez Lievano)

“Pumpkin Chuckin’” on the Science Channel is not for him
Playing with food? Makes no sense
Arriving at the restaurant in sloppy sweats – why?

Old people, he says, appreciate their food
Young Americans Supersize
They talk with their mouths full; food is an afterthought

We discuss restaurant behavior
Paying attention to the small graces of mealtime
Truly being with the people at the table
Bound by affection and reverence for one another
On Thanksgiving
I walk five kilometers with 5,000 people “to make room for all the food”
I dine, guided by the ethos of a boy who kept his shoes shined

And his food off the floor.

Mama's Losin' It